Thursday, January 30, 2014

You Can't Do It

-You Can't Do It-

One of the common themes in this day and age is that you can do anything; anything you set your mind to do. Somehow, in some way, you can accomplish goals you otherwise might have thought to be impossible.

There are, however, limitations to what a human being can do, being a physical being. You cannot breathe water. You cannot eat dirt and expect to live long. You cannot quit breathing without making that condition permanent.

Most importantly, you cannot “save” yourself. You, as a physical being, are destined to die. You will someday cease to exist in a state of consciousness in relation to your body. Even if you, through science, managed to stop the aging process, and found a way to regenerate cells and provide for unlimited cellular division or replication, someday this earth is going to be consumed by the sun, and eons after that the sun will be reduced to a cold cinder. Even if you managed to “jump ship” and head off to the stars, looking for other habitable planets, in time, all will be exhausted. Life, as we know it, will become a thing of the past. It will be as though life never happened – a small blip on the radar screen of eternity. It would all have been in vain. If you are to survive, you must transcend the physical.

If you are into metaphysics, you may well conclude that your consciousness continues on after the death of the body, but what sort of existence is it with nothing else around you, given that the universe is going to all turn dark and cold? You might as well envision yourself in a dark cell somewhere, unable to feel, see, or hear. How long before you snap and go insane? It doesn't matter... given you have all of eternity to go nuts.

Working from the premise that there is indeed a Creator God who not only made the universe, but life on this planet, which frankly seems more plausible than a universe popping into existence for no apparent reason or cause, and created life rather than the statistically impossible auto-genesis from primordial soup, we read in Scripture that “salvation” from death is possible.

Sign me up then. By the way, what's the catch? What do I have to do to avoid perishing, whatever that is? After all, if I were to exist in that dark place with no sensations, I would hardly call that life.

Not so fast, responds God. I created an angelic host – beings created who are non-physical, and quite a number of them turned to the dark side of the force, having rejected my love, and I had to evict them from my spiritual realm, for I will not tolerate discord, and dissidence among those whom I have created to exist within My spiritual realm. It's My way, or the bye-way. Those beings rejected following Me. They decided to place their faith, trust, and alliance on another who thought he could become like Me, taking over as though he were Me. This particular being rejected faith in me for faith in himself, and chaos was and is the result.

This is in part why I created mankind as physical beings. As such, they can experience life outside of faith in me, so as to understand and experience the results of living without Me. They will have something to compare. The wise will compare, evaluate and contemplate. Those who are foolish will refuse to place their faith and trust in me, not unlike those angels who sinned. Those who learn the lesson of experience during their physical tenure I will exalt above the angels. Those who reject me, even after having seen the results of life devoid of My involvement in their lives, will suffer the same fate as those fallen angels. There is misery in this world because the world does not know Me.

This God declares that He truly loves us, and in demonstration of His love, made Himself like us, and suffered a most agonizing, painful, tortuous death in an act of reconciliation. For we were indeed created as physical beings, and subjected to a sinful nature so as to experience what life is devoid of God so as to better appreciate God and what He truly offers to us as His gift, which is a gift of great value.

The angels didn't have the “benefit” of having experienced life without God and the consequences of rejecting Him until some of them fell.

God wants to know now if we are ready to live and walk in faith, totally and completely. The reality we perceive is that there are many who profess faith in God and His Christ, yet reject true faith in Him in favor of self-reliance or partial reliance on someone or something else.

If there were to begin with three “arch” angels, Lucifer being one of them, in charge of a third of the angelic host each, how subtle was the transformation of faith off of God and on to Lucifer by those angels who sinned? Did they truly comprehend what they were doing? Could the process have been so subtle so that they were not truly cognizant of what was going on?

There are churches that insist one is saved through faith in Christ, but insist that only members of their particular church can be saved. How many people out there truly comprehend this is an example of a faith divided, which is no faith at all in God/Christ?

In the Scriptures, we see examples where Christ spoke about salvation based upon the actions of people, so that, should you truly contemplate what was said, you would see how He set up impossible scenarios. Yet the unthinking out there look at those same examples as things people must absolutely do in order to be saved.

And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. – Matthew 19:16-17

The careless stop there. Those with a mind-set contrary to true faith are content to conclude our salvation isn't all about faith in God after all; that they get to prove they too are like God is God by keeping the commandments, thereby proving themselves worthy and perfect in that regard. They get to stroke their own egos. They get to prove they are better than others. Yet the end of the matter says that no man is going to be able to save himself by keeping those commandments, for no one was ever created as a being capable of doing so, besides Christ, and God is not in the business of creating more Gods like Himself.

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. – Matthew 5:27-30

The next time you are in conversation with a legalistic type who insists we are supposed to keep the law, or at least the ten commandments, ask him (you can change the gender of this debate to suit your conversation) if they have ever had a sexual thought regarding a woman not his wife. If he says no, you are talking to a liar. But if he admits it, then ask him why he has not followed up on Christ's instructions regarding plucking out one of his eyes, seeing as his compliance with the command against adultery is not enough, according to Christ, and even the thought of adultery can send you packing off to hell.

And realistically, what happens, after you have plucked out an eye, should you see another woman with your remaining eye, and again have a lustful thought?

You may well fool yourself into thinking you can “keep the commandments” but you really have to stretch your denial in order to believe that plucking out an eye, or taking off your right hand; just about the most severe and desperate of acts you can do, will result in you attaining eternal life. No, even if totally blind, you can still have sinful thoughts, with the resultant condemnation associated with an evil imagination.

Jesus stated these severe things as required for salvation in order to prove mankind incapable of saving himself. Even the apostle Paul used this methodology in his writings, stating in Romans that not the hearers of the law would be justified, but the doers of the law. But what's the fact here? No one is a doer of the law. This often believed path to salvation is effectively closed off when confronted with the facts of life.

Only God can save you, and all He asks for – all He demands, is your faith; your total faith, undivided and undiluted.

Otherwise, you will not believe and follow God, and where will that lead you?

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; ) Acts 17:11

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Who Advocates the Law?

Sometimes, you can have so many things going on at the same time, you don't know which item to devote the most time to. Sometimes, I feel like the man who jumped on his horse and rode off in all directions at once.

That said, what has fascinated me since my awakening and departure from the WCG, was in trying to discern what made one person leave, and another person stay, where both parties had access to the same or essentially similar information. One of my motivations in this regard was to be better equipped at helping people to “see” again, and how the Armstrong theology is so seriously flawed and downright abusive, if not outright satanic.

Of course, one still ensconced in Armstongism, or the SDA, would balk loudly at this notion, claiming that the law they live by is “God's law” and as such, hardly satanic. However, just as it is with just about everything in this world, there is the proper “use” of a thing, and the “abuse” of the same thing.

What then was the purpose of use of the law, from the perspective of God? What did the Israelites perceive as the purpose of the law?

Moses wrote that, should they keep the law, it would be their righteousness, and who doesn't want to be righteous in the sight of God?

Deuteronomy 6:24 And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as it is at this day.
25 And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the LORD our God, as he hath commanded us.

But Moses also wrote that the law served the purpose of being a witness against them:

Deuteronomy 31:26 Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee.
27 For I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the LORD; and how much more after my death?

Can we look at the cold hard facts here?

God calls them stiff-necked, rebellious, and faithless. How do these characteristics manifest themselves in every day life?

We have a number of other descriptive that go hand in hand with these “qualities.” Pride. Arrogance. Egocentric.

What does it mean to be stiff-necked? It is a condition of being resistant to outside influences. “I'll do it my way.” “Don't tell me I can't drive fast. I'm a highly skilled driver with the reflexes of a cat and the vision of an eagle.” The stiff-necked person refuses correction or direction. They know it all, and if you don't believe it, just ask them. With either religion or politics, their mind is made up. They are right, and you are wrong. They read an article on a particular subject, and now they are experts on the subject. They are not open to other ideas once their minds are made up.

What they didn't understand then, and what a lot of people don't understand today, is that God played into their egos and stiff-necked, rebellious attitude by saying in effect, “Fine then, go ahead and produce your own righteousness through the law. Show me and the world that you can do it yourself and I will even shower you with blessings and wealth you can't even imagine."

The stiff-necked, rebellious, faithless, wants to boast in himself. So God gave them something to boast in; a law. God said, “Here's what you can do to be like Me. Here's how you too can be like God is God. Knock yourselves out.

The Israelites never kept the law; not even close.

Then comes along Jesus. You would think by then, based on what had happened to them as a people, that they would have been ready to admit they couldn't do it; they couldn't keep the law; that they would be ready to try something else, like, live and walk in faith.

No. They were still in denial. Like Psalms 44 shows, they actually thought they were in compliance with the law, and couldn't understand why God was punishing them. They could not face the truth. They were still stiff-necked and rebellious, insistent that they could do it themselves.

Move forward another 1800 some years, and you have a religious movement within the ranks of the Church of England who insisted they could still do it themselves, also suffering from the same malady of those earlier Israelites when it came to ego, being stiff-necked, rebellious, and generally judgmental and obnoxious. From this grouping sprang the modern sabbatarian movements, and they are the children of their theological parents.

They all made a mistake in judgment. They looked at the Israelites of old and concluded, “Why, no wonder they didn't keep the law; they didn't have God's Holy Spirit in them to enable them to keep the law. They were doomed from the beginning. We Christians are so much wiser and righteous than they. We have Christ and the law! We have the missing piece of the puzzle. We can do all things through Christ in us.”

The overall problem is: If you seek righteousness through your own efforts, you end up with “self” righteousness, and it is not a pretty thing. You also end up with people no better than those Israelites of old, who were in denial over the law, for the modern sabbatarian legalist really doesn't keep the law either; not even close. But try to convince them of that!

Paul wrote that it isn't the hearers of the law who are justified, but the doers. It's one of the legalist's favorite proof texts. What the legalist refuses to see, being in denial, is that none of them are doers of the law. They are, like the Israelites before them, “lippers” of the law, giving it lip service only. Somehow, just acknowledging the law is sufficient. Just acknowledging the law is somehow keeping the law, just as Israel of old did.

To those who believe it is God's Spirit that enables you to keep the law, how is that working out for you then? If, after all, it was the function and purpose of God's Spirit to keep the law, then you would keep the law, would you not? But you don't, do you! And what little law you do keep, you keep in accordance of the dictates of men, and not Scripture. And even here you are in denial.

Most sabbatarians (I refrain from saying “sabbath keepers” since they don't really keep the sabbath) feel that just “knowing” the sabbath is just as valid as keeping it. Other religious sects or offshoots (dare I write it and use the word “cult”?) have their own distinctives also, where the whole embodiment of their movement is summed up on one practice or over-riding belief. Baptists comes to mind first in regards to “mainstream”.

Before we wander off too far. We need to stop and ask ourselves what sort of person is the opposite of the egocentric, stiff-necked and rebellious, faithless, person?

They are pliant. They have come to see and understand that they could never in a thousand lifetimes live up to that standard set by the law. They are not hung up on the self and glorying in the self. They see themselves in relation to God and Christ as just a mere man who is a sinner and humanly unable and incapable of making himself over into anything near like God. They, in turn, are willing to walk in faith, taking on Christ's righteousness. They truly seek God and His Righteousness, and not their own.

God can work with such people. They will trust Him; believe Him. They will place their faith in Him. They will truly BELIEVE Him instead of looking for rationalizations to circumvent truly believing God and truly having faith in God.

They truly believe Christ's sacrifice was complete and we are complete in Him. It isn't half Christ's sacrifice and half our efforts in “keeping” the law. We, as Christians, have nothing to brag about, including keeping the sabbath or knowing the “truth” about it. The “truth” about the sabbath is that it was a shadow of God's rest that He began on that seventh day of Creation Week that the BELIEVER; the FAITHFUL enter into through faith, and not because they knew to keep the shadow.

The law was, and is, a great venue for separating out the egocentric and the humble; the faithless and the faithful; the stiff-necked and the pliant.

In closing, I give you the sabbatarian version of the Beatitudes.

Blessed are the poor law keepers: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn over breaking law: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek law keepers: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after self righteousness through the law: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful law keepers: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the law keepers who are pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the law keeping peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are those law keepers which are persecuted for self-righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye law keepers, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so the law keeping people persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
Ye law keepers are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
Ye law keepers are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works of the law, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; ) Acts 17:11

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Some Reassurance RE Privacy

The thought occurred to me that I have never written here to reassure you, our guests, on how we treat your privacy. I wanted to let you know that your identity is completely safe here. You are free to read and comment and send us email in confidence.

We collect only the normal amount of information about your visit that every website collects - where you are from, what kind of browser you are using, what post you read, etc. In other words, we do not know who you are unless you tell us who you are in a comment or email. You may notice that Feedjit bar on the page. It operates on cookies. But the only thing it can do is say where you are from. It cannot tell us anything else. It does not collect any data for us. It's a novelty, really, but it encourages us and others that they are not alone in this search.

We insist that you remain safely anonymous every bit as much as we insist we remain safely anonymous.
If we remain anonymous then it's easier for us to do what we do. We want no payment of any kind, nor do we want accolades. If you choose to remain anonymous then it is easier for you to do what you do. Read, study, ponder, pray with no pressure from anyone and no fear that you'll be discovered.

We only collect what we do so we can know if there's any point to us continuing; we are auditing ourselves, not you. We're here for you, but in order for that to happen we need to know if you're there. If you're not there, then what's the point? We need to know something about visitors.
We do not harvest that information for any other reason. In other words, we do not sell, trade, publish, or leak any of this information beyond a few harmless bits such as for example every once in a great while we may post "we have had x number of hits this month" or something like that. 
We don't even sell advertising space on the site. We find it unspeakably annoying that a person can't seem to use a website or download an app on your phone that doesn't track you for advertising purposes or require you to create an account and log in for whatever reason. We aren't about that. As a visitor here, you are both truly welcome and truly free.

But most of all, I thought it would be important for you to know that we do not and will not ever leak that you've been here reading our material to your church or minister or the dreaded deacon's wife. We couldn't even if we wanted to, because we don't collect that kind of information about you. They cannot and will not know you were ever here. 
More than anything, we want you to step into the New Covenant in the finished work of Jesus Christ. But how can we get to that point if you aren't safe here to read our posts? We cannot! Therefore, we will never endanger that goal through the foolishness of data-mining. As far as we are able, we will do whatever we can to ensure that you are safe and anonymous here, so long as you choose to be. Read 5 words, or read every word we've ever written -- no one can ever know! Send us an email -- it will be between us.  :)

One disclaimer: we reserve the right to pass information on to the authorities if a guest is being out of line, for example threatening us or someone else.

God bless you, dear reader. I pray His light shine on you always. I hope knowing you're safe here has brought you some comfort even if it is just a little.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Fear, The Powerful Motivator

What a colossal soul-deafening moment, when you realize the magnitude of the cracks in the wall of a well-constructed reality. All at once, you experience what I can only describe as thought freeze.
You’ve heard of the expression brain freeze, right? The sensation of agony felt when consuming ice cream or other frozen product too fast. Suddenly a blinding pain stops you in your tracks, usually followed by some sort of sound effect and the compulsion to apply pressure to the area. Within a minute or two it passes, and like most of us, you return to your previous enjoyment, albeit more gingerly. After all, ice cream is very good. 
The experiences of those who have left the shackles of legalism found in Armstrong’s doctrine, would relate to this description.
Thought freeze. Perhaps someone in your life has asked you a question for which you do not have a prepared response. Maybe it hasn’t been presented as divine revelation in a sermon yet.  Still, it hit a nerve, breaching the well-fortified walls of doctrine. Maybe for just a moment, it made you wonder if everything you thought was iron clad truth was questionable.
Instantly, like the brain freeze of eager ice cream consumers, a bolt of fear and indignation stops all thoughts processing; gripped with mortal fear that Satan has crept into your mind to try to deceive you. Immediately you pray, or immerse yourself in what you have always been sure of: Armstrong’s words on what the Bible says. Apply pressure to the pain; wait for it to pass. The only difference is that you avoid it altogether, unlike those who are free to enjoy their ice cream afterward.
You reason to yourself, “Brush off that moment of doubt! Remember that man is fallible! Subject to error. But the foundation is sure. The trunk is securely rooted.” 
But, how can that be reconciled with church teachings? 
The Churches of God teach that the word of God as found in the Bible are the infallible, inspired writings breathed through men by God Himself. So, whatever is inspired is without error. Yet, the means God used were still mere men. Men are subject to error. 
How do we resolve this? Either the Bible is infallible because it was inspired by God or it is fallible because it was recorded by men. It cannot be both, unless God was a liar. We know God is not a liar. [I assure you that I am not calling the trustworthiness of the Bible into account.] So it is with Herbert Armstrong. He claimed divine revelation for himself and would never be allowed to err (Deuteronomy 18:20-22). Yet we have seen many errors and false prophecies given and taught by the Churches of God as declared by Mr. Armstrong. Throughout As Bereans Did, you will see plethora examples of Armstrong’s errors.  There is no need to list them here. How can Mr. Armstrong be both infallible and fallible at the same time?
I have mentioned this to point to something fostered by this dissonance - fear.
I remember very well stumbling across what we were taught were “anti-church of God” websites. We were told these sites were run by ex-members: those bitter from ex-communication, those deceived by Satan, or those who were never truly converted in the first place. They would declare that anyone truly called by God and fully converted could never leave, God would not allow it. Therefore, they were chaff. So convincing is the often used employ of rejection, that I would effectively dismiss anything contrary to the teachings of my Church of God splinter. It’s a lot easier than doubting everything you have believed in and worked for in the only reality you now accept.
However, something doesn’t quite add up when people dare to delve fearlessly into the claims of the free. The temptation to “thought freeze” it out of existence is very strong.  Consider for a moment that the very need to use such a tactic may be evidence that you need a defense mechanism. If there is nothing to fear, then surely we would not need such a thing. The word of God can stand up to any scrutiny. God can be trusted to never let you down; never let you go, never abandon you. Not because you fulfill a method of rules aimed at increasing your worthiness to rule, not because you have shown Him how serious you are about following His ways, and not because  He wants to delegate. It’s because God is glorious, loving, merciful, forgiving, gentle, merciful, and if there is any other good thing, it is because HE is love! He lets none of His children go.  He is a wonderful loving Father. Believe it dear reader.
I too, was once in the shoes of those who immediately cast off any criticism. I looked at ex-members the way thought reform had trained me to, all the while thinking I had been given pearls.  I had thought-stopping processes that had given me immediate ways out of doubt. Once in a while though, something always made it past all the road blocks. All the diversions I could make and call logic crumbled like a house of cards. I was faced with a choice; examine the claims and trust God to preserve me, or surrender to my fears and walk away from a Bereans spirit. Thankfully, by God’s grace, I did as Bereans did.
Do not be fearful beloved child of the Most High. He will not forsake you (Deuteronomy 4:31). He is with you, and wants you to be free.  The next time you find yourself tasting that sweet taste of the New Covenant speaking in your heart, do not fear, but trust Him. Trust that no matter where you go, or what you do, He will accomplish His will (Philippians 1:6). Be comforted in this: His will is that none who trust in Him should perish (John 3:16) and God always accomplishes His will (Philippians 2:13).

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; ) Acts 17:11